25/10/16, The Girl on the Train + My Scientology Movie
A bleak film which, with so much of importance stacked right at the end, is tricky to review without giving everything away. The murders aside (sorry!), The Girl on the Train casts an interesting look at middle-age singledom and the bitterness and loneliness that can develop. In this respect, I enjoyed the first half more than the second – which becomes an attack on patriarchy that lacks nuance. Emily Blunt does a good job portraying a thirty-something woman without a shred of self-worth. She wants to be in a loving relationship, wants a family, and a place to call home. She has none of that, and as it turns out (another spoiler alert, sorry), not even a career to fall back on. Each day her train journey passes the house and the white picket fence of the man who broke up with her, and who now has a perfect blonde wife and child – the life Blunt's character has always yearned for. We learn she tried through IVF to have children with this man but ran out of money, and thus turned to alcoholism, their relationship collapsing in turn. Writing this, I feel I should have felt sorrier for her than I did; I wonder if the portrayal was just too pitiful? Too shallow? If everything is bleak all the time, pitiful all the time, then nothing can shock or sadden, it becomes more and more of the same and we are inoculated against it. I don't know how the director or screen writer could have shaken things up, maybe her daydreams or more happy moments between her and the man before things fell apart? I left the cinema (Cineworld, if you're asking), thinking this film could have been more than it is; its heavy-handed message at the end compromised the art. A strong concept, to conclude, that's too bleakly superficial to be likeable, although as mentioned, Blunt's performance is a highlight.
Another film that received middling reviews from the press was My Scientology Movie, a documentary by Louis Theroux that I would regard as one of the best things I've seen in 2016. It was simultaneously disturbing, funny and thought-provoking; the decision to recruit ex-members as consultants and re-enact events they'd experienced (with young, jobbing actors) was inspired. Theroux's talent truly comes out in improvised situations; when Scientologists try to unnerve him by following him with cameras, he turns the tables and begins chatting and filming them in return, the prey hunting the hunters. They, predictably, can't stand the attention and seem unprepared or unable to cope with the reversal or Theroux's polite but focused questioning. Weird dialogues emerge that you couldn't make up, until the scientologists eventually run away. I'm also glad I watched it in the Cameo cinema, because after the film was a filmed Q&A session in a theatre involving Theroux and his producer, adding a post-film perspective. By the time I got home it was very late but worth it, it's the kind of film you can talk about enthusiastically for ages with people. I don't know where Louis Theroux goes from here, but as a sequel, I'd love for him to hang out with Tom Cruise.